In the fortnight since India assumed the G-20 presidency, the world has begun to witness the essence of Indian hospitality captured pithily in the saying Athithi Devo Bhava – the guest is akin to the divine. With a vision of a shared future, India looks to the year of G-20 Presidency as an opportunity. Currently, the world is facing unprecedented challenges with the after effects of a disruptive once-in-a-century global pandemic, global conflicts, an impending climate crisis and economic uncertainty. Over the last couple of years, much of the global energy has been focussed on protecting lives during the COVID-19 pandemic and preserving livelihoods in its aftermath. However, as several of these uncertainties continue to coexist, India’s Presidency gives us an opportunity for the world to focus on the 4Ds of de-escalation of the conflicts, more digitalization to enable fast paced, equitable and inclusive growth and striving for an equitable framework of decarbonisation to fight the climate crisis.
De-escalation and Diplomacy
Prime Minister Modi’s statement “Today's era must not be of war”, in his meeting with his Russian counterpart on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit in September resonated across the globe. This also formed the basis of the joint declaration of the G-20 on the Russia-Ukraine conflict. The G-20 provides an opportunity to continue to espouse de-escalation of global conflicts.
Multi-alignment and the promotion of rule-based multilateralism has been the very essence of India’s foreign and economic policy. India is a part of several multilateral fora, and in each of these has played a constructive role in making the world a safer and more secure place. It has also been able to voice the concerns of the developing nations and ensure that their interests are protected. With the G-20 presidency, India has the opportunity to act as a bridge between the large powerful nations where it belongs and the smaller, developing nations that trust her.
Digitalisation and last mile delivery
Between 2005 and 2021, India has been able to pull 415 million people from multidimensional poverty. Over the last 8 years, we have seen an acceleration in poverty alleviation through the use of technology and digitalisation in particular. In 2014, India embarked on a government led drive where close to 500 million bank accounts were opened for the poor and underprivileged, including 260 million women, who were outside the banking system. With the use of India’s Digital Identity system - Aadhar, and a Unified Payment Interface (UPI), interventions and welfare transfers have been targeted at an individual level. In the 1980s a former Prime Minister remarked how only 15% (15 paise of 1 rupee) would reach the end beneficiary. In 2020, while the world was in the middle of a global pandemic, India was able to secure the livelihood of the poorest by making critical targeted cash transfers.
Today India’s world class Digital public infrastructure of identity systems and real time payment systems, available at population scale, is a model for the rest of the world. Even during the COVDI-19 crisis, the vaccine platform, COWIN, helped India scale its vaccination efforts and seamlessly administer more than 2 billion doses. The developed and developing world can emulate these systems and India would be sharing its experience and learnings with the rest of the world.
Development and Decarbonisation
As the Indian economy grows and Indians become more affluent, India’s energy needs would also rise. In 2015, at the COP-21 summit in Paris, India committed to 40% of its power generation originating from non-fossil fuel sources by 2030. This target was achieved in November 2021 - a decade earlier. India by example has shown the world that the pursuit of a development agenda and protecting the environment can go hand-in-hand without being at odds with each other.
India has played a key role in promoting multilateral initiatives such as the International Solar Alliance (ISA). Prime Minister Narendra Modi has often spoken about tackling climate change through climate justice - an equitable framework with differentiated responsibilities where the developed world leads in climate finance and technology transition. India has the credibility to continue this dialogue into the G-20 and ensure that these differentiated responsibilities are adhered to.
A shared future of joint prosperity
India has shared her ideas and knowledge freely across the world's geographical and cultural divides. The theme for India’s Presidency of the G-20 “One Earth, One Family, One Future” is inspired from the Sanskrit phrase in the Maha Upanishad VasudhaivaKutumbakam - the world is one family. The theme not only resonates with our ancient philosophy but also sets the course for a joint call for responsibility, action and prosperity.Across India’s 20,000 languages and diverse cultures, the idea of a shared global future and an intertwined world order is a common theme. KaniyanPoongunranar, the famous Tamizh poet in the 6th century BCE wrote, “All the places on earth are our town and all the people are our relatives, all are evolved from common ancestors”.
These philosophies have not just been handed over from generation to generation but have also been embodied in our national consciousness. It now regularly reflects on how India engages with the world. In times of crisis and in the middle of a vicious global pandemic, India supplied COVID-19 related medical and other assistance to over 150 countries. Through the Vaccine Maitri Programme, India has provided approximately 75 million doses of COVID vaccine to 94 countries and 2 UN entities. In the midst of the hostilities between Russia and Ukraine, the Indian Government not only evacuated 22,500 Indian students by operating more than 90 flights but also rescued more than 150 foreign nationals from approximately 20 countries.
As India assumes the G20 presidency the very goals that it has set herself for the next 25 years as a part of Amrit Kaalcan form the basis of a shared global future with joint prosperity. An action-oriented and development-oriented presidency striving for a rule-based global order promoting international peace, and advocating for just and equitable growth in a sustainable, holistic and inclusive manner. This is very much in the art of the possible.
(G Kishan Reddy is the Union Minister of Culture, Tourism and Development of North-eastern Region in the Government of India